A year after Gaza war: ruins, small joys and much to fear

Thu Jul 2, 2015 8:25am EDT
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By Luke Baker

GAZA (Reuters) - As the sun sets over Gaza, there isn't a table to be found on the terrace of the Roots hotel, with views overlooking the port and the gently crashing waves of the Mediterranean.

Crowds have gathered for Iftar - the nightly breaking of the Ramadan fast - and the atmosphere is excited: young men and women taking photos on their iPhones, puffing apple-scented nargile pipes and watching a dance troupe as they dine on hummus, pita, chicken and sweet pistachio cakes.

It is a far cry from the death and destruction that consumed Gaza a year ago, when Israel launched an air and ground assault to put an end to constant rocket fire by Hamas militants from Gaza. The July-August conflict left more than 2,100 Palestinians, most civilians, and 73 Israelis dead.

The scene on the hotel terrace is not a sign of how far Gaza has come since - quite the contrary, as not a single one of the estimated 100,000 homes damaged or destroyed in the war has yet been rebuilt - but of the stern resilience of many Gazans.

It reflects too the striking contrasts the territory throws up - outside Roots, a stylish hotel that wouldn't look out of place in Europe, there are smart cars parked two or three deep. A few kilometres away in the district of Shejaiya, there are whole neighborhoods lying in ruins, families sleeping rough in makeshift shelters amidst the smashed rubble of the war.

If the former is an image of what Gaza might aspire to be, the latter is closer to what many parts have become.

Since the end of the war, the flow of reconstruction materials into the territory has been greatly restricted, with Israel insisting on tight monitoring of all imports of cement, iron and other materials that could be employed by Hamas to rebuild secret tunnels that were used to attack Israel.

So slow has the influx of goods been that the United Nations last week said it could take 30 years to rebuild the damage.   Continued...